LONELY? NOT I!
There were three of us; Bill, Tom and myself. We were always together, playing or building a house in the woods nearby. Great friends for always, we promised each other.
It was fortunate we were at the same school, the same class actually, and sat next to each other on the back row! I don’t know why the teacher allowed us to sit together, as we got up to some naughty tricks; talking together when the teacher was talking, passing notes to each other and sometimes making a dart. Bill could throw the dart the furthest, right to the front of the class. It would curl around and glide down just under the teachers table.
She never saw it. Tom always retrieved the dart at the end of class, as he passed her desk whilst Bill said bye as a cover. Tom would stumble and grabbed the dart, and then we were all outside laughing together. It surprised me that she never saw it, must have been short sighted, even when she had her specs on! Great thick and brown frames they were, and quite thick lenses too I had noticed.
At play time we had our favourite spot to play, just around a corner of the building, away from the main playground and most of the other children. We told jokes, some from off the TV, or the latest going around class that we’d heard. Other times we played tick. Bill always won; he was athletic, good at running and timed his touch to perfection. Just when you thought you’d got away, he’d reach out his long arm and ticked us.
Sometimes we’d try to climb the wall at the edge of the playground. What was over that wall? I never did find out. Bill and Tom were quite strong and bigger than many of the boys in class, so they were the base. I was a little smaller and lighter than most, so I’d climb onto their backs to try and peer over the wall, or to grab the top to haul myself up. Usually my arms gave way and I’d drop onto Bill and Tom in great peals of laughter. It was great; they never took offence, or showed they were hurt, they were real friends.
After school we walked home together; engrossed in each other’s company, laughing and joking, telling stories. Some summer evenings we went into the wood at the back of our house. We would take three spades and would dig a largish hole, about a foot deep. Another evening we would gather all the loose branches. The longest and strongest formed the skeleton of a cone roof. We tied them together at the top with strong cord that Tom had brought. The bottoms rested on the top edge around the hole. Then we’d add more and more branches all around to make the roof. Tom said we’d have to leave a small entrance otherwise how could we get in or out! Tom said, “Shouldn’t we have a door, at least when we leave it overnight”. I made a door, weaving some smaller branches together then covering with a lot of others. We always shut the door when we left. Bill and Tom always asked me to close the door, as I had made it!
When we got to our front door, Tom would always stay outside, saying he’d got something special to do. He never came in or said what he’d got to do, a close secret all his life. Bill came in with me, and as I said “Hi Mom”, Bill ran up the stairs as quietly as a mouse and disappeared into my room. They never came and ate with us. I wanted them to and asked them to, but they said it wasn’t right to.
When I did my homework, I wanted to share it with Tom, tell him the ideas I’d had and researched on the internet. Each morning when we met up again, we were back joking and I’d forgotten those ideas I wanted to share.
When I eventually went up to my room, Bill was already asleep, must have tired himself out with all that running and climbing he did. He must have had a secret meal in my bedroom, but there was never any mess or crumbs, the tidiest boy in the house. Quite the opposite too me, Mom was always saying you’ll have to tidy that room of yours, I’ve got to dust and hoover tomorrow. I put a few toys away and pushed a lot under the bed, so Mom wouldn’t see Bill’s bed underneath.
Each morning as I opened the front door, Bill came bounding down, smartly dressed and ready for school. Me? My hair was unruly, blew in the wind, tie askew and a button undone. Tom was always there, waiting patiently for us, often asking “What kept you this morning?”
And then it happened. Bill and Tom had just gone to the refectory to get some crisps and bring a packet back for me. As I waited I saw this girl, standing on her own. Of course I’d seen her plenty of times before in class, always on her own, a little timid in offering her thoughts and ideas in class. Not like Bill and Tom and occasionally myself. The teacher had tried to encourage her to speak, but to no avail. I felt sorry for her, but with Bill and Tom around I never gave it a second thought.
The teacher had always walked slowly away, thoughtful, made me think she was thinking, “How do I help her to get involved in class?”
As I looked at her, she raised her head and smiled. I asked “Do you want to have a chat?” It was funny that Bill and Tom never came back that day. I saw them a week later and said I’d met someone else. They didn’t mind at all, were surprisingly happy about it. They listened to what we’d talked about, and as I was going through the door, said “We’ve got to go now, we’re moving to another part of the country next week. We’ll miss you”. I said “Me too”. But I didn’t!